We all love our New Found Glory and our He Is We, but when it comes down to the true spirit of PureVolume, DIY, unsigned, next-big-thing acts are where we're at. The bands self-releasing their own material, independently booking tours all around the U.S. and beyond, covering Adele in their basement studios and throwing the result on PureVolume as a free download. We spent this year working with bands to premiere albums and host free songs and, for the first time ever, offer news and interviews across all the genres you love. Here are the 20 unsigned bands we think did it best in 2011, followed by a PV Playlist with a song by every act.
The Spin Room
One of PureVolume's most tireless self-promoters, fortunately Nick Miley, AKA The Spin Room, has the chops to match his drive. He spent big chunks of this year giving away some or all of his music on PV, and the pure passion in his lyricism -- he told us in a PV Q&A "if you blend love, passion, drive and old school Taking Back Sunday together in a bowl and add some sugar, that's The Spin Room" -- has us thrilled for whatever he releases next.
Sail By The Stars
One of many solo pop-rockers on PureVolume offering everything you could ever want from a full band, Sail By the Stars does it all and does it extraordinarily well. He released a new EP, Away We Go, this fall, and just about every melody was stuck in our heads from the get-go.
12 Dirty Bullets
These guys are so good, so English, it somehow feels like a disservice to simply dub them the next Arctic Monkeys. The group followed up their astounding debut LP with a single, "Motown," we've been jamming since the day it hit, and a DIY tour across the entire U.S. Stay tuned for a sophomore record sometime in 2012.
Boasting one of the most maniacal fan-bases of any band on PureVolume, the young Paradise Fears accomplished big things this year, touring with some of the biggest acts in the game -- All Time Low, He Is We, The Cab -- and releasing a much-loved album, Yours Truly, and the exceptionally smooth Acoustic EP. It's safe to say these guys will be on one of your favorite labels by this time next year, if not this time next month.
Aunt Martha are amazing. There's just no other way to start a discussion about 'em. The New England ethereal rockers pulled a Bon Iver this year, swapping Maine in for Wisconsin and recording the stunning album Norway, ME. Pair the stellar LP with a transcendental live show and you've got one of our favorite unsigned bands of the year, hands down.
Weatherstar is a nonstop one-man pop-punk machine, and PureVolume got a double dose of him this year with September's single "Closer" and, most recently, a finely-tuned-from-start-to-finish holiday EP, Christmas Makes the Heart Grow Fonder.
Move Out West
Move Out West are one of the most dedicated DIY bands around, making unique pop-rock and doing everything they can to get it into the ears and hands of fans. They gave away their On the Run EP for free this year, to great effect. We can't wait to see what else they have in store.
This LA act takes its lead from Colleen D'Agostino's unmistakable, often haunting vocals and never looks back. After years together and many an EP, the group released a spectacular full-length in 2011 and rocked an astonishingly original take on Alkaline Trio's "Bleeder" that was one of our favorite covers of the year. On top of all that, D'Agostino and guitarist Jon Moreaux managed to debut one hell of an electro side project, With Beating Hearts. The Material are absolutely one to watch.
The Scene Aesthetic
This pair just put out a new album, The Days Ahead, in December, but they've have been going strong all year. The indie-pop duo made big strides in the past, touring with bands like Owl City and The Ready Set, so we have no doubt they'll keep it going through 2012.
Yet another solo act who brings everything we could ever want from a full band, Thrash (his real name) dropped two dynamite singles on PureVolume this year. He's saccharine and lovey to the point of all-out fun; he also gave one of the best PV Q&As of 2011.
The Icarus Account
Twin brothers Ty and Trey Turner premiered their Keeper of Your Heart EP just last week, offering a free download of their tune "Unpredictable." The duo makes heartbreakingly simple and sweet acoustic pop tunes, and we look forward to hearing more of their love songs to come.
My Genuine Find
My Genuine Find’s electro-pop unsurprisingly kept exploding on PV this year with his Of All The Beauty EP. When he later described his music as “electro-dance love” in our PV Q&A, and divulged that he writes songs about his dream girl, it seemed as though fans became even more smitten. We'd say they had good reason to be.
Before You Exit
The Orlando group is comprised of four super-young heartthrobs who know how to write a pop-punk anthem, get some slick production on it, and throw in a solid guitar lead. Also, they aren't afraid to mix in a bit of cowbell.
This fellow was two very important things this year: Busy and generous. With two singles and a free EP under his belt in 2011, Musto gave fans a lot to be excited about. "50 Years" is a bouncy pop tune from his most recent EP, Year of the Blackbear, with a catchy chorus and deeply touching lyrics bound to speak to even the most cynical of hearts.
These gents gave away the first single from their late-2011 EP A Walk Through Time, adding fuel to a fire that's been burning for them since they released their first record in 2003, but is certainly bright in 2011. This was a particularly big year for the band, though, with the additional release of a full length, Find A Way at the start of the year.
Asteria have been on our minds lately thanks to their holiday tune "Ribbons & Bows," but they never really go far from our heads, as they were also on the Top Unsigned Bands list last year. The band was previously signed to Broken English, but went solo a few years back, and we're especially excited to see bands who have taken control of their own fates doing so well.
Assemble the Skyline
One of the few veterans of our Top Unsigned Bands list, Assemble the Skyline earned their second consecutive spot with this autumn's "We're Not Going Down Without A War." The hard-working LA band shows no signs of giving up on their quest for musical domination.
Rookie of the Year
He may as well change his name to “Dominator of the Year.” 2011 brought the premiere of his single “Light Years Away,” causing a stir within the PV community and landing him his first top spot on our weekly charts. A full album stream of Along for the Ride and a second consecutive spot on our charts confirmed that his heartfelt piano pop has not only captured fan attention, but won’t be losing it any time soon.
My Arcadia jumped back onto our radar this past summer, with their cover of Alkaline Trio’s “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire.” The tender tune was a huge departure from the original and set the band apart from the hoards of cookie-cutter covers churned out daily. Sealing the deal on an awesome year was My Arcadia’s inclusion on A Tribute To Alkaline Trio, with -- you guessed it -- the same cover that enamored fans on PV.
These Boston boys are no strangers to PV’s Best of Unsigned List -- they earned a spot here back in '09. With their 2011 release of American Cherry Bomb, it’s easy to see how they made their way back. Can you say insanely infectious pop-rock with perfectly placed hooks? Yeah, that about sums it up.
Top Unsigned Bands of 2011 Playlist:
Compiled and written by Maud Deitch, Alyssa Coluccio and Zach Dionne.